The Forrest Hall Task Force met on Thursday night to discuss the potential name change of MTSU’s ROTC building.
This was the first deliberation meeting of the committee following the three open forums held for community input since November.
Chairman Derek Frisby asked the committee to avoid debating “good Forrest vs. bad Forrest,” and to focus on making one of three recommendations: to keep, change or contextualize the name.
Members of the committee quickly began discussing contextualization as a happy medium, suggesting that a plaque or exhibit be added to the building to add historical perspective to the name.
Faculty senate president Tricia Farwell disagreed, questioning the effectiveness.
“How many people would actually stop and read the little plaque,” Farwell asked, suggesting that contextualization would not be effective. “We have students who feel the need to walk the other way and as a faculty member, that breaks my heart.”
Alumni representative Tony Beard agreed with Farwell, suggesting it be a student vote.
“[Alumni] aren’t students here anymore; it’s not our building,” Beard said. “The decision needs to reflect the current students, the future leaders of the community.”
Frisby disagreed, saying a student vote was impractical because of the “extraordinary apathy” on campus about the issue. He then added his opinion on the recommendation.
“I said I wasn’t going to give my personal opinion, but I don’t think saying that we want to change the name so that we can dishonor Forrest is going to pass the [Tennessee Historical Commission],” Forrest said. “So I think we should suggest a name change to honor someone who has epitomized what it mean to be a Blue Raider.”
Frisby detailed Joe Nunley’s involvement on campus and in the military, suggesting the name be changed to Nunley Hall. There was no immediate opposition to Frisby’s suggestion, though community member David Ogg suggested the name be changed simply to ROTC Hall.
“We already have the R, the O and the T,” Ogg joked.
The discussion shifted drastically from whether to rename the hall, towards what to rename the hall after Frisby’s suggestion until Senator Bill Ketron disagreed.
“If you take down the name you’re destroying history,” Ketron said after refuting audience claims that he is a bigot. “My vote is we keep the name.”
History professor Mark Doyle disagreed with Ketron, highlighting the importance of interpreting history.
“As an institution, we have the right to reevaluate who we honor as we grow and change…we’ve changed a lot as a university since Forrest Hall was named,” Doyle said. “The idea is definitely not to rewrite history. [The history department] as 36 history professionals, decided unanimously to write that letter, recommending a name change.”
The meeting lasted over two hours, and ended with two of the ten audience members waling out, calling Ketron a bigot.
The committee will meet again at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday before they make their final recommendation to MTSU President McPhee,
For live Forrest Hall updates, follow Sarah Grace Taylor